Five tips for Beginner Snowboarders.
You’re starting snowboarding; sweet! Snowboarding is a fantastic way to experience being in the mountains, make new friends and generally have loads of fun. Our blog top 10 tips for beginners talks about a lot of what you’re going to want to know and is worth a look but this is specific to getting you going on a snowboard. So what kind of things should you be doing to make the most of it? Here are our five tips for beginner Snowboarders to get the most out of your first holiday.
1. Find out if you are regular or goofy.
Without wanting to fall into lazy stereotypes, snowboarding does have its own lingo. So, before we get into buttering, nollies and cab5s let’s start at the basics and find out if you are going to be regular or goofy when you’re shredding the gnar!
The terms regular and goofy refer to which foot you will lead with as you slide down the hill on your board. Regular being left foot forward; goofy being right foot forward. In the same way as being left or right handed there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” per se just a preference that you’ll find more comfortable. This is the first thing you’ll need to know, even before you have got hold of your board.
If you’ve done board sports before, surfing, wakeboarding, etc. you’ll probably already know, even if you’ve only messed about on a skateboard as a kid you may well remember with which foot you led. If not, it’s straightforward to find out; one way is to get someone to push you in the centre of your back and see which leg you put forward to stop the fall, that will be your forward leg on your board. Alternatively, imagine you’re boxing or pretend you’re a sprinter in the blocks the foot you lead with will be your lead leg.
Don’t worry if you “get it wrong” it’s easy to change and a conversation with an instructor will help loads.
2. Safety first.
As a beginner, there is a good chance of falling over; hands, knees, bum and maybe even your head will end up in contact with the floor on more than one occasion so it’s a good idea to wear some protection. Protective gear isn’t just about safety; it will help you learn faster.
Hands: If nothing else you will want to keep your hands toasty! In snowboarding, far more so than skiing, gloves are essential. Because you’ll be messing around with bindings, you don’t want massive boxing glove-like mittens but you do want them to be waterproof and warm. As a beginner, you will spend a lot of time pushing yourself to your feet with your hands so maybe even take a spare pair!
Wrist guards are an excellent way to avoid hurting your hands and forearms. If you’re buying wrist guards, take your gloves with you so you know they’ll fit over them.
Knees: Luckily for you snow is soft(ish) so you won’t necessarily need big knee pads like you see skaters at the XGames wearing. If you wanted to wear soft knee pads under your board pants, they would both keep your knees warmer (you can spend a lot of time on your knees to begin with) as well as giving you a bit of cushioning if you fall.
Bum: Impact shorts are a brilliant idea! Worn under your board pants, they are basically cycling shorts with padding that protect your hips, thighs, and most importantly coccyx. There’s no loss of mobility and again will both keep your bum warm and stop you getting hurt.
Head: Wearing a helmet does not make you look like you are going to be fired out of a cannon these days so don’t let fashion put you off. Protecting your head is obviously really important; wearing a helmet is a good habit to get into throughout your snowboarding life, just look at the pros. If nothing else their plastic shell means they’re waterproof so if you’re riding and it’s snowing a helmet is a much better choice than a soggy woolen bobble hat!
3. Get to know your kit.
Unlike ski boots, snowboard boots should be your best friend. They should fit well and feel firm but comfortable all around your foot and calf without any rubs or hotspots. Your toes should only just touch the front as your foot will slide back a little in the boot when you stand correctly on your board, and your heel shouldn’t lift in the back of the boot. Your feet will dictate the boot that works for you so try on a few pairs around your size in different brands and styles if possible. Footbeds/Orthotics to put in your boots are a sound investment as they support your arches and can help avoid your feet cramping.
Spend some time in the chalet or your apartment before you even get on the snow practicing strapping yourself into your snowboard bindings. Lift the tall hinged plastic bits, which are known as the high backs, up and out of the way and put your boot into the binding so the high back is against the back of the boot. Try and get into the habit of doing the big strap at the back of the binding, the heel strap, first as it will ensure your boot goes into the correct place. Be careful not get the small straps at the front of the binding, aka the toe straps, caught in the heel strap or under your foot. Use the ratchet to do them up nice and tight but not “cutting the blood off” tight. It’s easier to strap/unstrap your feet while learning sat down, so have a go at getting up from sitting with your board on in your apartment. This will get you familiar with your bindings and make the basics easier on your first day.
You may hear people talking about angles and stance width when it comes to your snowboard set up. Angles refers to the position your bindings are set in relation to the board and stance width is how far apart your feet will be. Most rental boards stance width will be neutral and centred on the board so depending on how big you are will determine the board size and therefore your stance width. Bindings will usually come with a positive angle of around 15 degrees on the front foot, with the rear being at 0 degrees or slightly “duck footed” with a slight negative angle on your back foot.
Don’t worry about this too much, rental boards are easy to adjust and a conversation in the shop or with an instructor will help clear things up and make things as comfortable as possible for you.
4. Start on the snow.
Before you put your board on remember snow is slippery! Snowboards don’t have breaks on them like skis do so if you put your board down make sure it’s upside down with the bindings in the snow. If you lay your snowboard on the base it can easily slide away; hilarious if it goes a few meters into the car park, a nightmare if it shoots off down the mountain and you lose it, or worse, it hits someone.
Now you’ve worked out whether you are regular or goofy and how to strap your feet onto the board start by just strapping your lead foot in and get a feel for snow under the board with your other foot firmly planted in one place! As you get to grips with how slidey the plank strapped to your foot is have a go at moving around. Skate in the direction your board is pointing with your back foot behind the board, start slow and make small pushes to begin with. Experiment with turning around and skating with your back foot in front of the board too.
Skating will help to get around any flat areas and getting on and off chairlifts. When using chairlifts, you’ll be riding with only one foot strapped in so practicing sliding and stopping with your back foot unstrapped will make life easier.
5. Get lessons!
A lot of people go on their first snowboard holiday with friends and/or family who can already snowboard. If you are one of them don’t, DON’T, DO NOT let them teach you, it is a fantastic opportunity to ruin your holiday. They’ll get bored of teaching you what they think they can remember as being the basics and will drag you to the top of a slope with the words, “you’ll be fine.” You won’t! If you don’t hurt yourself, you’ll probably be so freaked out by the experience you probably won’t want to go back on the hill.
Having spent all the time effort and energy of getting yourself to the mountains to enjoy snowboarding, don’t skimp on learning how! The best way to learn to snowboard is to book yourself lessons with a school like SnowLimits. An experienced, patient and fun instructor can help you enjoy your first snowboard holiday.
The ideal option is to have private lessons. Booking private lessons guarantees the focus is on you, the learner. With 100% attention from your instructor, you gain 100% of learning time which will speed up the learning process and allow you to get the most out of your first time. Group lessons offer incredible value for money, however, do check on the numbers that will be in the group. SnowLimits keep group sizes to a minimum to guarantee that you get the maximum. Because of the small groups the focus can be on each and every person throughout the week, improve confidence and meet individual needs, while still ensuring that everyone gets the most from their lessons.